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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Train Up A Child

From the time I was eight years old until I was nineteen, I spent my summers taking swimming lessons and eventually teaching swimming or working as a lifeguard. In the end, I was a Red Cross Instructor and held a Silver Medallion (Award of Merit) from the Royal Life Saving Society. I still love to swim, albeit with much less intense speed and vigour. In those days there was no public indoor or outdoor, for that matter, swimming pool in the city where I grew up. All instruction was conducted at an open air facility at one of two lakes. As you can imagine, weather was a great factor in lesson planning. As I matured, we spent more and more time in the water during cool and windy conditions. In August, the lessons were moved to a smaller but deeper lake in order to work on deep water and life saving skills. The painfully frigid temperature of the water in late August is something I remember to this day. Swimming through a misty fog for examination day was somewhat common in the early morning.

One of the great pleasures that I realize in retrospect was the way that I got to the swimming lessons. From the time I was ten until I was about fourteen, I rode my gearless coaster brake bicycle the seven miles (11.2 kilometres) to and from my lessons. My summer physical fitness after bicycling 22.4 kilometres and swimming for forty minutes five days a week was not something that concerned my parents. Lately, I have been remembering the exhilaration of that daily bicycle ride. For some reason, I only recall the beautiful sunny days. I remember more summer warmth than I am sure there really was. I remember only level or downhill hedged walking paths. I remember purchasing and savouring that ten cent Jersey Milk chocolate bar each and every day. Given the level of strenuous exercise, calories and sugar were not a concern. On some days in August, when the ride was even further, my father would put my bicycle in the trunk of his car and drop me off at my paternal grandparents’ home on his way to work. My grandfather was already at work and my grandmother who was an invalid for the last ten years of her life was still in bed. I sat in the quiet of that house reading until it was time to bike the rest of the way down a secondary highway to the swimming lesson awaiting me. I wonder sometimes if sitting in the quiet prior to riding in complete isolation shaped me as somewhat contemplative as an older adult.

I also wonder at the trust shown by responsible parents in an admittedly much safer time. I couldn’t imagine our or indeed the current generation of parents allowing such independence at ten years of age. What a great loss has been suffered by both succeeding generations. By allowing such early independence in both decision making and physical fitness, lifelong skills, not to mention work ethic indoctrination, were encouraged to flourish. I realize that my parents’ generation were not really aware of the luxury they enjoyed in being able to parent in a much less controlling and hands on manner. I also realize that we live in a much different world today. I believe, however, that there is much to be learned from them and applied to parenting today. The same principle of allowing the child to experience, make decisions and learn independently can be used with some required modern world restraints of course. There is much wisdom in the word of God in Proverbs 22:6.

6 ¶ Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Set Your Love Upon Him

Our eldest daughter was born one week prior to spring examinations when I was in teacher’s college. That was a while ago. Lozanne stayed in hospital for the usual three or four days following a long and difficult birth. As I look back, I realize from a much more seasoned viewpoint that medical incompetence was a factor in the difficult birth and its aftermath. Within a few days of settling into our new lives as parents, Lozanne began to haemorrhage due to a collapsed uterus. The memory of my mother physically prying our infant daughter out of Lozanne’s hands will always be with me. Lozanne felt that if she left the baby, she would never see her again. The feeling was a valid one. But for the grace of God, that is exactly what could have happened.

I rushed her to the emergency ward in the same hospital we had just left. Although it was very inappropriate, we were treated like the kids that we were. I was twenty and Lozanne was eighteen. I had to reassert several times that I was her husband and not her adolescent boyfriend. A nurse, who was slightly older than I was and who had actually travelled on the same school bus as I had, referred to me several times as “the boy”. Lozanne continued to haemorrhage. Our family physician, who had, in retrospect, caused the emergency was more concerned about delaying his vacation a few hours than treating my very ill wife. A blood transfusion was ordered and started. I have no idea how many pints of blood she was given throughout that night. I was given little information except that the situation was dire. Sometime after midnight, a Roman Catholic priest showed up in Lozanne’s hospital room to give her Last Rites. She unceremoniously threw him out of the room with the admonition that she had no intention of dying. I was beginning to catch on how serious the situation had become. At about two o’clock in the morning, a very competent gynaecologist miraculously appeared and replaced our general practitioner as the doctor in charge of the case. He made some rapid changes to treatment and called for more units of blood. By the next morning, it was evident to all that Lozanne would survive. She remained in hospital for the week. Our daughter endeared herself to my parents during that very difficult week in 1969. I have often wondered how my and my daughter’s life would have been irrevocably changed had Lozanne not survived that night. I have learned that the wife of your youth is your greatest comfort as you age and your body starts to fail.

I am, after so much time has passed, entertained with the fact that, when Lozanne was so severely ill, I was exempted from writing my teacher’s college spring exams. The irony is that I was exempted from final exams because I had been successful in the term work as well as practice teaching, not to mention the fact that one professor realized that my time would be better spent making a living for my young family than writing examinations. Although I wrote countless exams as my career unfolded, I gained my basic qualifications as a teacher without writing one examination.

I have in recent years become very much aware of the Hand of the Lord being on both Lozanne and myself long before we professed our belief and our need for a Saviour. It is not such a leap to realize that the God of the universe would of course know that well into the future we would become saved. His hand was on us much before that blessed event in time. The words of Psalm 91: 11-16 are resonating in my heart this morning.

11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.

12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

14 "Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.

15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation."

“Because he has set his love upon Me,…” (verse 14) could easily be read by me as “Because THEY WILL set their love upon Me”.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Children's Children

I have been thinking lately about the special relationship grandparents have with their grandchildren. Last Saturday, Lozanne and I were blessed with a very rare day. We spent time with all eight of our grandchildren. We were surprised and delighted to receive a visit from our three granddaughters who live a considerable distance away. They were driving with their mother by our home on their return trip home following attendance at a funeral. Later the same day, we attended my birthday party where all five of our grandsons were in attendance. It was a very special day indeed.

If you are a grandparent, you are very aware of the phenomenon. Grandparents and grandchildren enjoy a very special bond. The relationship with one’s own children is a more complex one since it involves or involved parenting. Discipline and guidance are or were an issue and rightfully so. Our grandchildren have no need whatsoever for another set of parents. The result is a special relationship that transcends the generations. They understand us and we understand them. The bond of love is quite simply instant and just is. I believe that the special relationship we enjoy with our grandchildren is clearly a gift from God. It is a blessing that in most instances is without complexities and parental responsibilities. I have to be forgiven for quietly enjoying a little manipulative misbehaviour which I realize in maturity is of little consequence.

Psalm 128 describes the blessings that result from simply being a believer. What appears to be very worldly blessings can also be interpreted as spiritual as well. We are blessed through our relationship with Jesus now and into eternity. One of the blessings listed is seeing our children’s children. Only a grandparent can understand the importance of verse 6.

1 ¶ A Song of Ascents. Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways.
2 When you eat the labor of your hands, You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine In the very heart of your house, Your children like olive plants All around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the LORD.
5 The LORD bless you out of Zion, And may you see the good of Jerusalem All the days of your life.
6 Yes, may you see your children’s children…

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

All Things Work Together

As I sit here in the very early morning, I reflect upon the fact that as of midnight, I turned sixty-two years of age. I truly did not think for several years that I would ever be 62. Only the most loyal of readers will have noticed that I have missed a two day writing cycle. There is an explanation (not an excuse) for the lapse that I only realized myself last evening. I started to use sleep medication in order to improve the quality of life for both Lozanne and myself. Indeed I slept much better for several nights, but I found myself getting up much later in the day with a fuzzy and not a little depressed mind incapable of writing a word. In order to sleep better, I was giving up on prime contact time with the Lord. Last night I did not take the little blue pill and here I am at the keyboard feeling like I can think and pray again. It finally occurs to me that my chronic sleeplessness is a positive and not a negative aspect of my life after cancer treatment. Sometimes our all too human reasoning powers just simply fall short of the reality that God has created for us. Lozanne reminded me yesterday of the comforting words in Romans 8: 28-31.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 ¶ For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
31 ¶ What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Our little human minds have trouble with the concept that, if we are believers, everything that happens to us will turn to good. Until this morning, I thought that my inability to sleep past the very early morning hours was a very negative aspect of my life. As it turns out, it was a positive that I missed immediately as soon the “problem” was cured by medication. Obviously, I didn’t need the sleep as much as I needed to pray and write to the Lord. This early morning Lozanne and I have been praying constantly for the desperately ill daughter of a Christian brother and sister. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Sacrifice?

In my Christian walk, I admittedly feel at times that I fall far short of what God would expect of me. I am sure that my behaviour always falls short of His expectations. No matter how hard I try, that is a given. For this reason, I am so very thankful for my redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary. As a believer, I ask over and over for forgiveness and receive it through miraculous grace each and every time. Another area where I often feel inadequate is the amount of time and resources that I give to His service. In the Old Testament there are long lists of appropriate and sometimes required sacrifices. These were in the form of livestock, harvest or harvest by-products such as olive oil or wine. In the modern day, we can easily translate these tangible things into gifts of monetary value. I suspect that our latest dilemma in appropriate sacrifice has been all too common for believers this week. Lozanne and I have discussed at some length the appropriate amount to give to the aid of the people of Haiti following the disastrous earthquake last week. We have also thought carefully about which agency or agencies we should approach. Must the agency be a Christian based charity? Should our gift be one time or over time? How can we do the most good with our limited resources? Should gifts earmarked for other areas of His service be diverted to the greater physical need? We have indeed made our decision and in doing so, I have been considering carefully the words found in Micah 6:6-8.

6 ¶ With what shall I come before the LORD, And bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

What a great and loving God we have! He wants us to have mercy on others. He wants us to act justly in our treatment of others and indeed he wants us to walk humbly in His presence. The Message paraphrases the last part of verse eight as “It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.”

There is great wisdom in the provision that we are not to take ourselves so seriously. We are fallible, indecisive, selfish and ever changing creatures. The key to making the proper gift decision or decisions is found in our taking God seriously and using His criteria as given to us in The Book of Micah. We are to be fair, merciful, compassionate and loyal in our love for our neighbour. In not taking ourselves so seriously, we are able to stop thinking about what we should, could or would do and just do it!

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Judge Not

I am more than a little disturbed this morning by the reaction of the media this week concerning the comments of one Pat Robertson. Mr. Robertson is an American television commentator with a reputation of being a member of what is referred to in the United States as “the Christian right”. His comments are supposed to reflect the opinions of conservative and evangelical Christians. He apparently had the audacity to suggest on national and international television that the disastrous earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12th was a punishment from God. How he came to this conclusion appears to have something to do with his belief that the people of Haiti apparently sold their soul by making a pact with the devil in order to escape the colonial rule of France two centuries in the past. It bothers me to even write down such thoughts. Unfortunately, it does not seem to bother the media to report such unloving thoughts and statements. Indeed, Mr. Robertson provided them with just the kind of anti-Christian ammunition that they love and they have made the most of it.

Pat Robertson represents, I hope, a very small minority of Christians. They are the few that, despite the words of Jesus, continue to judge others. They judge the lifestyles, clothes and perceived behaviour of all those around them including fellow Christians. They are typically very sour in their demeanour in their treatment of others. They may even shun other Christians who do not live up to their perceived ideal of how a Christian should look and act. Personal grooming, the use of cosmetics and fashion accessories, level of education and even personality traits can come under their scrutiny. Every Bible believing church, chapel and assembly has a few such persons. The key word; however, is “few”! The media would have us believe otherwise. The vast majority of Christians at least attempt live up to the words of Paul in Romans 13: 9-10.

9 For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

We are all so very aware that Jesus admonished us to love our neighbour as we would love ourselves. Unfortunately, a small minority of Christians can mouth the words constantly, but for some reason they never seem to be able to internalize them. They just don’t get it. Pat Robertson, I would suggest, just doesn’t get it. If we are to love, we in turn are to do no harm to our neighbour. Our neighbour is not just the people next door or in the next pew. They are every human being on this earth. We are to love and honour them. The Apostle Paul tells us that "love is the fulfillment of the law". I suspect that Pat Robertson and a certain few are suffering from a form of biblical dyslexia. They must be reading that “the law is the fulfillment of love”.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Power to the Weak

29 He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. (Isaiah 40:29)

Our home is heated by wood. Heating with wood has always been an interest for me. Every home we have owned has boasted at least one wood burning appliance. Heating primarily with wood has become a retirement dream come true for me. There is something so comforting about the all pervasive heat it creates. It is aesthetically beautiful. It is relatively inexpensive. It is also very labour intensive. One of the most challenging jobs is the necessity to clean the heat exchangers in the furnace as well as the chimney. For safety’s sake, I undertake that job three times a year. Several days ago, I spent the evening before and the morning cleaning the furnace. It is a very dirty job resulting in an exhaustive cleanup of the furnace room and the do-it-yourself technician. Since the weather was mild, I determined I should go on the roof to clean the chimney as well.

I acknowledged to myself that I was indeed too tired to do the job properly, but stubbornly climbed the ladder. Normally, cleaning the chimney is as simple as running the four lengths of chimney brush rods down the chimney and cleaning out the resulting debris in the cleanout in the basement. The rods are threaded and attach together very securely so that they will not come apart in the chimney. It is paramount to pay close attention to each coupling or the brush can become uncoupled and therefore hopelessly stuck in the chimney. Of course the inevitable happened and there I was, exhausted, with a brush and two lengths of rod stuck in the chimney well out of reach. I spent about forty-five minutes attempting every way I could think of to grab the top of the rod just barely in sight in the chimney. I wearily had to descend and sat down at the kitchen table to have something to eat and to think. Finally I had the foresight to pray. I prayed for the technical solution as well as the energy to carry such out. As I calmed down in prayer and stopped wondering if I should call my handy neighbour for a second time or indeed a furnace repair man, the answer came to me and that was to push the brush and rods up from the bottom of the chimney with the remaining rods and a spare brush. In half an hour, the job was complete and the Lord thanked.

In my exhaustion I was feeling particularly sorry for myself. I sat down in front of the family room television only to be shocked by the early pictures of devastation coming out of Haiti. I still can’t properly comprehend the scale of the disaster following the earthquake. I cannot even put into words the degree of pain and suffering we are witnessing through modern communications. The flow of heart rending photographs and video clips seems to be never ending. Image after image shows the anguish, shock and grief of loss on each face. As the days unfold, we see the results of thirst, starvation and inevitable disease. As always, desperation leads to the breakdown of civilised behaviour in favour of the chaos of violence. I pray that relief efforts can avert this all too common human response to survival.

I have not felt sorry for myself since that moment.

The words of Isaiah 40: 29 are constantly in my mind.

29 He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. (Isaiah 40:29)

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Amazing Grace

The very famous hymn “Amazing Grace” was written in 1772 by John Newton. As a young man, John Newton was in the Royal Navy briefly and then began a career as a slave ship captain. He was not a man of faith. After surviving a horrific storm at sea, he began to exhibit noticeable changes. He started to explore Christianity and indeed became more and more faithful. He also began to encourage his seamen to treat their charges with kindness and humanity. After a stroke forced him to leave the sea, he was ordained into Christian ministry in 1764. At the end of his life, he expressed regret that he had been involved in the slave trade and spoke out against the trafficking of human beings. We don’t know who wrote the well known and much beloved music that was combined with his lyrics long after John Newton was dead.

The succinct description penned by Newton of the grace offered to us by a loving God has lately intrigued me. He says so very much in so very few words. I have probably sung this hymn hundreds of times and never really actually read and internalized what it says. It is a standard at most funerals and is even popular in secular music circles. My request of you, the reader, is to read and carefully consider the words transcribed below. I need write nothing else. I am completely incapable of improving on the words as penned by a former slave trader more that two hundred years ago.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,That saved a wretch like me -I once was lost but now am found,Was blind, but now, I see.

T'was Grace that taught -my heart to fear.And Grace, my fears relieved.How precious did that Grace appear -the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares -we have already come.T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far -and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me -His word my hope secures.He will my shield and portion be -as long as life endures.

When we've been here ten thousand years -bright shining as the sun.We've no less days to sing God's praise -then when we've first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,That saved a wretch like me -I once was lost but now am found,Was blind, but now, I see.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

He Will Return

In yesterday’s blog entitled “Many Mansions”, I quoted from John 14: 1-6 in support of what we can expect to find in the way of residences in heaven. Since revising the blog, I have been contemplating the words of Jesus in verse 3.

3 "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:3)

Contained with in that verse is a truth that many Christians don’t think about too much and those words are “I will come again and receive you to Myself”. Mainstream Christian religions, in most cases, simply ignore the Bible’s claim that one day Christ will return to this earth. Sermons are not preached on the subject and the possibility is simply not acknowledged. There indeed is more than one way to get to heaven. If the Lord returns before we, as believing Christians die, we will be with Him in an instant and no funeral will have taken place. There are two very clear descriptions of what is often called “The Rapture”, although the word rapture is not in the Bible. Today I have gone to 1Thessalonians 4:13-18.

13 ¶ But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

In his letter to the believers at Thessalonica, Paul tells us very clearly what will happen. He does not tell us when it will happen. Jesus made it clear, as He is quoted in the gospels, that we can never know the appointed time. The power of the description is dramatic. Jesus will descend from heaven with a shout, the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God. The dead believers from literally thousands of years will rise first followed by those who are alive and believe in their hearts that Jesus died and rose again on the third day. Many doubters would claim that the Rapture as described is simply impossible by human standards. I agree. By the standards of God; however, everything is possible. He has proven that over and over in the physical and spiritual world. Nothing is beyond the capabilities of God. How can we believe parts of the Bible and have our doubts about other parts of the Bible?

As a believer, the prospect of joining Jesus in heaven in the twinkling of an eye is indeed something to cherish. There is, however, a down side realized all too well by most Christians. What about loved ones and friends who are left behind? They will still be able to become believers, but they will live in a very difficult period described in the Bible as “The Tribulation”. We continue to live in a period of grace. Have you accepted the grace offered to you as a free gift by a loving God? The period of grace could end in several hundred years or indeed it could end this afternoon.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Many Mansions

Lozanne and I have lived in nine different residences. Five were rental properties and four were houses that we purchased. Several of the rental properties were very basic, but suited our needs well in our youth. As I look out over the lake this very cold morning, I realize that our last home to date is our favourite. It is not because our current home in the country is so much more luxurious, but it does seem to suit us better for our age and stage. The quiet and the country setting accentuate the comfort of the place. Plainly stated, it is a very comfortable house in which to live. We have realized over the last decade that we actually own nothing in this world. Our current home is on loan from the Lord. There is not one resource that we enjoy on this earth that He has not created and allowed for us. The day will come of course when we will no longer require an earthly residence. Despite the fact, like everyone else, that I am in no hurry to return the property to my Lord, I do look forward to that promised heavenly home. We don’t know a lot about heaven, but I am very much excited by what Jesus tells us in John 14: 1-6.

1 ¶ "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
2 "In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
4 ¶ "And where I go you know, and the way you know."
5 Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?"
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Did the word “mansions” catch your eye? The word “mansions” is used once in the Bible and it is in this verse. We are assured that there are not a few mansions available, but that there are many. We are also assured that Jesus has gone to prepare our place for us. As much as we have enjoyed or not enjoyed our earthly homes, just what is in store for us? I am fairly sure that I have never lived in a mansion and the likelihood of moving to one any time soon is rather remote. Will the mansions suit our tastes as developed here in our worldly existence? I can’t even speculate, but I do know that it will be indeed spectacular!

As believers in God and Jesus, we are assured our heavenly residence. Verse six tells us the only way to get to the Father and the Father is in heaven. Jesus doesn’t just demonstrate a good example of truth, He IS the truth. He is the only way that we can come to the Father. He is “the way, the truth and the life”. The way to heaven is not through church attendance, our willingness to tithe, our obeying the rules and least of all through our good works. The only way is the acceptance of Jesus as our personal saviour. He and only He is the way. Have you reserved your heavenly mansion yet?

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Our Canadian Flag

This morning, quite by accident, I unearthed from my files an artefact from my past. Five years ago, while going through all of my parents’ effects in order to clear out their apartment, I found a document that surprised me by its very existence. Both my mother and father lived independently until the end of their lives and passed away within 34 days of each other. The task of deciding what to do with two joint lifetimes of possessions and memories fell to my sister and myself with Lozanne’s capable assistance. There before me in a small strong box designed for important papers was a hand written speech that I wrote and delivered in grade seven. It is called “Our Canadian Flag”. My mother’s souvenir evoked a memory that I had not entertained in years.

I nervously mounted the stage in the Canadian Legion Hall in front of what seemed like hundreds of listeners. Much to my chagrin, I had won the public speaking contest for grade seven and eight students in our school and had advanced to the city level. The Canadian Legion has sponsored speaking contests for decades. My five minute speech was about the then Canadian flag called the Union Jack. In rereading the text of my speech, I am appalled even now with the boring content. The contest required that the speaker stay on the stage without a lectern for four to five minutes and any reference to speaking notes would result in a loss of points. I did indeed manage to stay on the stage and recited the speech with rehearsed mannerisms completely by memory. Unaccountably in my mind, I came third in the competition and received a long lost red fountain pen. Throughout all of that difficult evening, I concentrated on the promise of going ice fishing on the following day. This morning, I am contemplating why my mother would find the fifty year old event so worth preserving, and even more so, how we change as we age.

I spent much of my career speaking in public. It became second nature, even when I was unprepared, to hold forth on varied topics. Indeed, from time to time, I still deliver forty minute messages in local assemblies. I use speaking notes to remind me where I am in the discourse. Memorizing a five minute speech would be absolutely impossible for me now. I have trouble memorizing a Bible verse. The old brain and the new brain function completely differently. You will notice that I did not characterize the difference as bad, just different. The Lord has designed us to replace awesome memorization skill in youth with critical thinking and organizational skills as we age. I marvel at that design. As we lose one ability, He replaces it with another. Another very well known public speaker summed it all up so well in Acts 17: 26-28.

26 "And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,
27 "so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;
28 "for in Him we live and move and have our being…

The apostle Paul is speaking to the Greeks in Athens. His message uses their “Unknown God” as an example to better describe how God has designed us all, determined the boundaries of our lives and offered us unending mercies so that we may search for and find Him. In Him we live and move and have our very being. How is that for an intimate relationship with our Jesus? My life and my capabilities are unfolding exactly as they should. God is not only my creator, but allows us through faith to be part of Him.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I'm Confused

A recent newspaper article introduced me to comic author Ariane Sherine. She is a public and avowed atheist and has just written a book to help atheists grapple with the thorny issue of celebrating Christmas or not. Since atheists do not believe in God and indeed Christmas celebrates the first coming of Jesus to earth, I would think that the decision would be a very simple one. Strangely, most atheists still celebrate the Christmas season. Ariane Sherine is the originator of the bus advertisement campaign that started in London and spread to other cities around the world including Toronto, Calgary and Ottawa. Large signs are bought and paid for by groups of atheists, I can only assume. They read “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Like Christians, evidently atheists can be lukewarm in their faith. I am greatly entertained by the word “probably”. Are they just being careful? Are they avoiding the much feared lightening bolt? Is there room for doubt? They fund the signs, but stop short of getting their message out there in a clear concise manner.

The second sentence is “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” This is where I become very confused. If there is no God, then this is all there is. There is only the random here and now and there will be only the blackness of death that will end the here and now. This is exactly the opposite argument of the very basics I grappled with in 1996. Before I became saved, I spent years searching for something beyond “is this all there is?” What a depressing theory to accept. If I accept the idea that there is indeed no God, THEN I shall start to worry. How can one enjoy a life that is short, hard and ends in the finality of death? How can one give up the comfort of the scriptures and of prayer? God is very real to me. If I don’t have Him in my life, then I am very worried and not enjoying my life. I will join Jesus in heaven for eternity. How can that be worrying? I suspect that the line implies that if you don’t believe in God, you can stop worrying about being “good” and pleasing God. They have completely missed the point. It is impossible for me to be “good” in any case. Am I not better off with a forgiving God who loves me despite my many and constant shortcomings? How could I enjoy my life more than I do now under the conviction and direction of a loving God who forgives all of the nonsense that I continually churn up in my very human existence?

Psalm 46 is a great antidote to the nonsensical signs on our buses. I have become very still and I know that He is God! Atheists should be the worried ones!

1 ¶ To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song for Alamoth. God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
6 ¶ The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
11 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I have mentioned in an earlier blog my time spent on the farm with my great aunt and uncle. I visited for a week or two for a couple of years when I was about six or seven years of age. The memories are vivid. My second cousins, all of whom were adult males, loved to allow me to experience new frontiers for my age. I actually drove a Model “A” coup on the farm roads with the assistance of a cousin beside me in the passenger seat. I was placed on a very large work horse and rode him to the farm boundaries and back. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that the horse was taking me on a very familiar route that the horse would have completed whether I was on his back or not. The speed was an extremely slow walk. I still remember the height and shear size of that beautiful and powerful animal. As long as I hung on to the mane there was no danger and indeed I did hold on. Only now can I imagine the amusement of all the adults around me to watch me being handled and babysat by that beautiful animal, when I actually believed that I was in control.

Within the farm house was another very edifying and humanizing experience. Housed in a large, clean and bright back bedroom was my second cousin George. George was severely developmentally delayed. Institutionalization was an unthinkable alternative to my Great Aunt. Indeed she cared for George every day of his life until she died. Not surprisingly, as so often happens to the handicapped, he died shortly after her passing. He lived into his thirties. He was bedridden and except for being carried to a chair, never left that room, at least during my visits. He required assistance to sit up in bed. His speech was unintelligible baby talk coming from an older teenager. At first I was somewhat fearful about entering that room. Over time I was encouraged to pay visits to George in his room. I became accustomed to his verbalizations and gestures and indeed spoke to him in response. I do remember that he seemed to enjoy my visits. I often marvel at the early education the Lord gave me in interacting with handicapped individuals. As an educator, I was destined to work with severely and moderately developmentally delayed students for a period of six years. They are my best remembered students.

I have over the last several years thought more and more about who I would like to greet and speak to in heaven. I cannot begin to assume that such will be possible, but with so many other fantastic experiences confirmed by scripture, I can at least enjoy very much the prospect of meeting others who have gone before me into heaven. I believe that the vast majority of us will get into heaven for not our good works but because of our faith and our belief. A certain few like George will be there by default. Since he was, over his short life, unable to profess his faith, a graceful and merciful Jesus has welcomed him into eternity. In 1Corinthians 15: 42-44, we read these wonderful words.

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.
43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

The natural body that failed George on this earth is raised in incorruption, in glory, and in power. I will meet him in his glorified spiritual body and he will be perfect in every way, as I will be. I will greet him, not in this weak and failing body, but in a glorified body designed to last into all eternity. I marvel at what he will be able to tell me. I marvel where my faith has taken me.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Friday, January 1, 2010

How Do You Spell Elephant?

Mrs. White was more than a little frustrated with her split grade two and three class. The silliness continued despite her frequent warnings. It was a Tuesday. I always remember Tuesdays. I hated Tuesday morning when I was eight years old. Indeed, in retrospect, I disliked it most of my school and working life. Tuesday morning, after opening exercises, always included answering the very boring questions in the Dent Spellers I used as a student and indeed as a teacher. It was a silent time of working at your desk. On that morning the whispering continued. I must admit that most of the time as a young child, I exhibited exceptional deportment. Her admonition was not aimed at me. Finally she said it. “The next pupil who talks will get the strap”. Young readers may be somewhat shocked with such severity, but such was reality in the fifties. We all knew beyond a doubt that the next person to speak without permission would most certainly be unceremoniously strapped in the hallway for all the school to hear. Three hits per hand was the minimum administered. I was positive that the child being strapped would not be me. Then it happened.

The student next to me asked in a hoarse but quiet whisper. “How do you spell elephant?” Without thinking, I whispered back, “e-l-e-p-h-a-n-t”. You guessed it. I was the only one Mrs. White heard and I found myself out in the hallway being strapped. The strange thing about the strapping was that she apologized to me before administering the corporal punishment. She knew that I was but the scapegoat. In order to maintain the discipline she expected in her classroom, someone had to be caught and punished. The very strange thing about my memory of that day is that I don’t remember the pain, I just remember the apology.

For the first third of my career as an educator, corporal punishment was allowed. Indeed on a few occasions, as a vice-principal, I was forced by similar circumstances and the demands of staff members to administer the strap. I would venture that the exercise was harder on me than the student getting the strap. I hated using the instrument that I still have as a souvenir of another time and place in my desk drawer downstairs. As a matter of fact, I have two straps which were never removed from the drawers of my desk for the remainder of my career after the abolition of corporal punishment in the early eighties. Oddly, the selection of a scapegoat was a common way of maintaining discipline. I once worked for a principal who strapped very infrequently, but always in the empty basement so that the very distinct noises of the leather hitting the hands could be heard clearly all over the school. The concept of selecting a scapegoat is very much a Biblical concept. In Leviticus 16: 8-10, we read the LORD’S instructions for atoning for sin.

8 "Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat.
9 "And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering.
10 "But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness.

The idea is that the sins of the people were placed on the scapegoat so that the goat could carry them away into the wilderness and they would be before the LORD, but at the same time forever gone. There is great beauty in this picture of the two goats. One goat is sacrificed in order to meet the lawful requirements of a holy God and the second goat is a type for the placing of all of our sins on Christ so that they may be taken away forever. What an opportunity we are given in return for our belief. We are no longer under the law. We have only to confess and repent of our sins and they are taken away forever through His finished sacrifice on the cross, never to be heard or seen again.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)